Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From Solar Power to Human Power Across Ontario

From Solar Power to Human Power Across Ontario: "

When the government told Marcelo da Luz he couldn’t drive his solar car on Ontario’s roads, he took a drastic step to protest the decision: He yanked out the batteries and motor and started pulling the car from Niagara Falls to Toronto.

Da Luz, who has driven the X of 1 (“Power of One”) solar car to the Arctic Circle and back and across Canada’s famed ice roads, isn’t the sort to back down from a challenge. When a fatal accident led to a moratorium on solar car registrations in Ontario, Da Luz registered his car in the United Arab Emirates and drove it on Canadian roads.

That worked bought him enough time to complete the cross-Canadian treks and show off his solar vehicle to schoolkids. Then the Ministry of Transportation contacted him.

“I got a letter from Ontario saying, ‘Please note that in Ontario, the use of foreign license plates on solar vehicles is not permitted’,” da Luz said. At least they were polite about it.

Da Luz was equally polite, staging a peaceful protest that saw him pull the 440-pound car along secondary roads. He started the trek last week after spending a month of bulking up at the gym.

“The last thing I want is to cause problems,” he said. “I chose roads less traveled, I walk on [the] shoulder when available and stay as near the curb as possible. As a precaution, I have an escort vehicle behind and sometimes one in front.”

Along the way, da Luz continues to stop at schools and preach the virtues of solar vehicles. So far, the reaction has been generally positive.

“A few times I passed police cars, waved at them [and] they waved back,” he said. “As for the public, they wave, they honk, clapping, cheering, occasionally a dog running after me but so far they were either behind a fence on a leashes”

Da Luz could apply for a solar car test permit, and even offered to help the Ministry of Transportation design permitting regulations, but said current regulations would be far too strict for the trans-Canadian journeys he’s embarked on before. For instance, the route of the entire journey must be marked with signage, and da Luz said most of the Trans-Canada Highway is off limits due to traffic restrictions.

For now, he’s working on persuading the provincial government to allow the X of 1 on public roads without a permit. He’s optimistic that he will prevail.

According to da Luz, the official response may be similar to after the province banned EV conversions. “The moratorium was lifted after EV enthusiasts pressured the government to explain why they imposed the moratorium,” he said. “Absolutely, I expect Ontario to change after the X of 1 Walk to work with its citizens.”

Photos: Marcelo da Luz


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